2018’s biggest travel trends | STA Travel Blog
New year, new you and new countries to tick off the list!
With data from our customers and our own sense of wanderlust driving us forth, we’ve pulled together our most lusted after destinations for 2018. Some are old favorites making a resurgence, and some are new, unchartered territories calling out to be discovered…
1. Sri Lanka
Why? At the time of writing this, Sri Lanka is ahead of any other country in our customer poll. This tiny teardrop-shaped island in the Indian Ocean is the Asian hotspot of 2018, home to a diverse range of natural beauty and ancient wonders. It’s relatively new on the backpacker trail, and you travelers can’t get enough of its authentic culture and untouched landscapes.
- Ride the winding train tracks through tea plantation-clad valleys between Kandy and Ella, frequently awarded the title of ‘the best train ride in the world’. *sigh*
- Traverse Adam’s Peak. The 7000 steps are best climbed in time for sunrise – a popular pilgrimage for the residents of the island.
- Head north to Sigiriya and the cultural triangle, full of ancient temples, city ruins and buddha-clad caves.
- Hit the waves in the white sand surf meccas of Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa or Arugam Bay.
- Get lucky with a sighting of grazing elephants and leopards in Yala National Park, or Minneriya, or have your own ‘Life of Pi’ moment aboard a boat, spotting whales at sunrise in Mirissa or Trincomalee. (Psst, there’s turtle nesting spots, too. You know we love turtles).
Why? You might think Netflix is responsible for a peak of interest in Colombia, but there’s so much more that makes this colorful, biodiverse country contender for South America’s most up-and-coming tourist destination.
- Get to know the locals. There are certain countries that gain a reputation among travelers based on how happy, humble and welcoming the people are – Colombia is certainly one of these countries. English still isn’t that widely spoken, so brush up on your Español and ask the Colombians what they love most about their home. If your vocabulary fails, you can always share a smile or a laugh with them.
- La Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) needs to be on your bucket list. Colombia’s answer to Machu Picchu, but with far less tourists, the Lost City is the destination of the four or five-day trek into the steamy Sierra Nevada jungle
- If hiking ain’t your thing, the port city of Cartagena surely will be. Think cobblestoned streets, colonial history, cocktail bars, rich culture and color everywhere. Culture hats on!
- Jungles? Check. Cities? Check. Beaches…? Also, check. Tayrona National Park is your typical slice of Caribbean paradise. There’s amazing marine life, rainforests and plenty of palm-shaded beaches to get stuck on, Pina Colada in hand.
3. Western Australia
Why? This is an untouched world away from the well-trodden path of Australia’s East Coast. Bordered with an idyllic coastline, home to vast deserts blanketed by the mind-melting Milky Way and teeming with incredible wildlife, Western Australia is a marvel of its own. Go on, be a rebel and explore the less-frequented side of Aus…
- Head to Rottnest Island, near Perth to meet the residents – the cheery, curious quokkas. They’ve got sloth, koala and pug-levels of cuddly charisma. (Google now, thank us later!)
- Hire a camper van and tour Western Australia’s incredible national parks (Karijini, Kalbarri and the Pinnacles to name a few)
- Stop off in Ningaloo Reef in Coral Bay – where you can swim with gentle, ginormous whale sharks and manta rays. Nearby, you can also meet wild dolphins on the shores of Monkey Mia.
- The town of Broome, where you can ride camels across the extensive tidal flats, before blazing off in a cloud of red dust into the beautiful, unchartered territory of the Kimberleys.
The last few years, those lucky enough to be traveling to Europe have been banging down Croatia’s pristine, wave-lapped doors to get in, but this year, Croatia’s northern neighbor Slovenia where we predict a travel trend emerging.
When they said ‘hidden gem’, they actually meant to say ‘hidden-in-the-most-stunning-picturesque-paradise-in-the-Balkans-gem’. This impeccably beautiful country is a gift to the eyes… and the camera.
- If you come to Slovenia for one reason alone, it would have to be Lake Bled. Nestled in the Julian Alps, this crystal clear lake houses Bled Island. Hike, swim, and marvel for a few days amidst one of Europe’s most picture-perfect spots on the map.
- Spend 24 hours in the capital city, Ljubljana, which is full of cool clubs, riverside bars and a pretty epic castle.
- Hop over the border to Italy… With Venice merely hours from the border, it would be rude not to.
- Explore the 15 mile long Postojna Caves. These contain weird and wonderful rock formations and even a concert hall fit to hold 10,000 spectators.
‘It’s the cirrrrrrcle of liiiiifeeee!’. Need we say more?! Prepare to walk onto the set of ‘The Lion King’. This is a land of extremes, ruled by wildlife, where the African desert meets the ocean.
- Explore the Sossusvlei desert, fringed on all sides by giant sand dunes.
- Climb ‘Big Daddy’ – the largest dune in the world – then hike your way along the famous Dune 45. Extra brownie points for those who make it there for sunrise
- Take a walk on the wild side, on the Caprivi Strip. You won’t find yourself sipping on cocktails or dancing the night away here – it’s not that kinda strip – but you will get to drink up a wetland wildlife paradise. Expect to see hippos, crocodiles and buffalo bathing in the blazing heat of the African sun.
- Those who dare can blaze down the Skeleton Coast. Dotted with decrepit shipwrecks, this vast stretch of coastline feels like the end of the Earth.
- Creep, climb and crawl (with your camera firmly in hand) around the eery and surreal sand-filled houses in the abandoned town of Kolmanskop.
Here’s us being super alternative. We’re not talking about the American state, here. Sandwiched between Europe and Asia, the country of Georgia is an unknown treasure and a dip into Eurasia’s humble local life amidst the mountains. Visiting a country like this will provide your travel-lusting soul with fresh perspectives, rugged landscapes, carpets of yellow and green meadows and unexplored valleys. And heaps to brag about to lesser-traveled friends who’ll have to Google whether or not it actually exists!
- The Caucasus mountains are a travel photographer’s dream. Head to the foothills of them for hiking, skiing or straight-up chilling.
- Georgian cuisine. Rich, comforting and varied, traditional Georgian cuisine blends traditional Eastern European food, such as beef stew and cheesy khachapuri (pancakes), with Middle Eastern spices. We came, we ate, we loved.
- The country’s capital city Tbilisi is home to the mesmerising Narikala Fortress, and some seriously crazy nightlife. Who knew Georgia had nightclubs to rival Berlin’s!?
Why? Iceland, step aside. You’re so 2017 (but we still love you). Norway offers a dazzling mix of history and natural wonder. The old meets the new seamlessly within the surrounding mountains, fjords and gorges. You could allow yourself weeks of exploring here, but seven days will suffice for the best of this Nordic eden.
- Iceland might have grown in popularity in the past few years due to the mysterious glow of the Northern lights, but you’ve got just as high a chance of spotting them in Norway from September to March, too. (#topofthebucketlist)
- Head to Bergen, the picturesque southwest city and jumping off point for Norway’s famed fjords. Be sure to climb the most popular of many ‘city mountains’, Mount Floyen.
- Cruise the fjords in the Geirangerfjord region, home to unmissable sights such as Seven Sisters waterfall.
- Be careful and don’t look down as you pose for the ultimate travel’gram 3,600 ft above the fjords below, atop of Trolltunga.
Why? Guatemala is the beating Mayan heart of Central America. A hop over the border, you’ll find charming colonial streets, jungles, ruins, culture, history and some mad volcanoes. When it comes to adventure, this country is bursting at its seams. Are you ready to fall in love? We already did, yeaaars ago.
- Play Indiana Jones amidst the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal, deep in the northern rainforests. Get in early, wander through it while it’s still empty and feel like you’re discovering it for the first time.
- Chill on the ginormous Lake Atitlan, fringed by cute hippie villages, three volcanoes and the Sierra Madre mountains. This could just become your favorite backpacker spot in the Americas.
- Sharpen your salsa moves and gorge on delicious street food in the lively markets of Chichicastenango.
9. Cappadocia, Turkey
Prepare your senses for a fairy-tale dream. This lava-sculpted chimney fortress (yep, you read that right) in central Turkey is one of the most unique landscapes to be seen on the planet.
- Explore one of the dozens of underground cave cities; beeline for Kaymakli.
- If you can’t afford to stay in a cave hotel a la @Doyoutravel and @Gypsea_lust, make sure you drink or dine atop of one at least once for the amazing views.
- Take a hot air balloon ride above this moonscape to watch the sun slowly illuminate it’s wacky shapes and valleys.
- Check out Pasabag, an area famed for its chimney-like formations, shooting up from the ground like mushrooms. Inside one of these, there’s a chapel.
While its neighboring countries – Japan, The Philippines and China have long been popular for wanderlusters, the coolest travelers are starting to latch on to Taipei’s energetic city vibes and the inviting green landscapes that lie a short train ride out of it. If you’re planning on swinging by Taiwan for a few days, pack your swimsuit, your hiking boots and your appetite…
- Discover sweeping mountain ranges and awesome hiking trails in Takoro Gorge.
- With a capital city like Taipei, there is an abundance of history, tradition and modern architecture to uncover. Take in the views from Taipei 101, then head to the night markets or Yongkang Street to feast on some of the best and most varied traditional east Asian fare.
- Taiwan is full of natural hot springs – our favorites are Chingchuan, Guguan, and Beitou – the latter is easily accessible, being just a short train ride outside of central Taipei
Read more: Taiwan destination guide
Because for starters, you won’t need a passport here! Utah is an up and coming ‘must-do’ for the Instagrammers, the nomads, and the adventure-lovers. It is a world-class outdoor recreation hub, with vast expanses of desert and national park. Hire some wheels or jump on a tour and prepare to hit the vast open road…
- Who said rocks were boring? Zion, Bryce Canyon and Monument Valley National Parks all offer landscapes to rival their big, famous cousins over in Arizona. Be sure to also explore the Dali-esque melted rock formations in Goblin Valley.
- Wasatch Mountain range, which offers a top of the range Skiing experience up in the snow-dusted peaks.
- Kick back and enjoy the high-life dining and nightlife scene in Salt Lake City.
Discover more: USA destination guide
The last great Himalayan Kingdom, Bhutan is overflowing with more mystery than pretty much anywhere else on Earth. If you’re thinking of packing your bags and heading to uncover this spiritual land, $250 a day to stay… but that will provide you with an all-inclusive, once in a lifetime trip, complete with your own guide.
- Get some zen. Be guided through the many traditional towns of the deeply Buddhist country, soaking up genuinely untouched, protected culture and customs. The open-minded people of Bhutan are ready to welcome you with open arms
- Absorb the majestic fortresses and the famous monastery of Paro Takstang placed beautifully on the side of a cliff known as Leaping Tiger Gorge.
Do you have your heart set on a new destination? Maybe you’re in the flow of being inspired and want some more. Check out our new 2018 destinations hub to satisfy your wanderlust…